I trust by now most of will have had enough of the festivities? So how about some football to take your minds off all the festive fun?
Newcastle take on Stoke tomorrow in what is the first of two home league games over the Christmas period – a rare occurrence for fans of Newcastle who are usually subjected to away day travel early on a Boxing Day morning.
The game is almost sold out so a bumper Boxing Day crowd will be assured, and why not after a run of results which has seen expectations raised from wondering if we’ll flirt with relegation to now pondering if we could seriously mount a challenge for a space in the Europa League, or perhaps even more. One game at a time though…
Cheik Tiote will miss the match through suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the campaign against Crystal Palace at the weekend. However, long-term absentee Ryan Taylor and calf injury victim Jonas Gutierrez aside, Alan Pardew has a fully fit squad to choose from.
Former Magpie, albeit briefly, Stephen Ireland is available for selection again after sitting out against his parent club Aston Villa last weekend as per the terms of his loan agreement. That means that Robert Huth is Mark Hughes’ only absentee as he recovers from a knee operation.
Both matches last season were won by the respective home team, both with a 2-1 scoreline and both involving late goals.
The theme kind of flows throughout history as both sides have been traditionally strong on their own patch. As this is at St James’ Park we’ll focus on fixtures in the North-East. A total of 39 games have seen United win 28, Stoke picking up just four victories and the other seven meetings ending in a draw.
Overall the head-to-head is a bit closer owing to Stoke’s superior record in the Potteries. A total of 79 matches have yielded 37 wins for Newcastle, 24 for Stoke with 18 draws making up the numbers.
Stats and facts…
Newcastle have won three of their last four matches against Stoke.
United have lost six of their last seven Premier League matches played on Boxing Day.
Both sides have lost just once in the last eight league outings.
A win for Newcastle would be the 200th Premier League victory to be recorded at St James’ Park.
This is only the second Boxing Day home game for Newcastle in the last 12 seasons.
In much the same way Crystal Palace had, Stoke have also improved of late. Things weren’t looking good for them but a notable result against Chelsea followed up by a win over Aston Villa seem to have them heading in the right direction. It won’t be easy.
Once again the onus will be on us though and once again we must match the fight of Stoke before our quality can shine through. Our run will come to an end at some point and whilst I’m enjoying every minute of it right now, I still can’t see us ending the season where we are now although I don’t think we’ll be too far off it.
Having said that, the longer this run continues the more I’ll have to believe that we might just pull of an upset in the league this season. We’ve already proved a lot of people wrong so is there any reason why that can’t continue?
Howay the lads!
Date: Thursday, 26th January, 2013
Venue: St James’ Park